Project Overview

Kerkenes is a massive urban center in highland central Anatolia dating to the Iron Age that was built, inhabited, and destroyed within perhaps 100 years. Built atop a mountain ridge sacred to the Hittite kings, the site was destroyed during the invasion of Anatolia by the Achaemenid Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. While the affiliation of Kerkenes was uncertain for many years, evidence increasingly points to a Phrygian cultural affiliation, connecting the city with Gordion far to its west. NSF-funded excavations under the direction of Scott Branting of the University of Central Florida aim to understand daily life and city planning within this well planned but short lived urban center.

The project website can be found here.

Environmental Archaeology Lab Member Involvement

John M. Marston has directed environmental archaeology at Kerkenes since 2010. Numerous volunteers in the EAL have helped to sort Kerkenes samples at Boston University, contributing to recent publications. Sydney Hunter will join the Kerkenes team in the field in summer 2019.

Related Publications


Sarah R. Graff, Scott Branting, and John M. Marston. Production requires water: material remains of the hydrosocial cycle in an ancient Anatolian city. Economic Anthropology online before print.


Branting, Scott, Joseph Lehner, Sevil Baltalı Tırpan, Sarah R. Graff, John M. Marston, Tuna Kalaycı, Yasemin Özarslan, Dominique Langis-Barsetti, Lucas Proctor, and Paige Paulsen. The Kerkenes Project 2015-2016. In The Archaeology of Anatolia: Recent Discoveries (Volume 2). Edited by Sharon R. Steadman and Gregory McMahon, in press. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge.

Branting, Scott, Yasemin Özarslan, Joseph Lehner, John M. Marston, and Sarah R. Graff. Kerkenes and Phrygia: old and new directions of research. In The Phrygian Lands over Time: From Prehistory to the Middle of the 1st Millennium AD. Edited by Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, in press. Peeters, Leuven.


Marston, John M., and Scott Branting. Agricultural adaptation to highland climate in Iron Age Anatolia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9:25-32.

Related Presentations


Graff, Sarah R., Scott Branting, and John M. Marston. “Production requires water: water management in an ancient Anatolian city” Paper presented at the Society for Economic Anthropology Annual Meeting


Graff, Sarah R., and John M. Marston. “Phrygian cuisine at Kerkenes: a synthesis of ceramic and botanical evidence for food storage and cooking” Paper presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology 


Marston, John M. “Agricultural adaptation during imperial expansion: climate adaptation in Iron Age highland Central Anatolia” Paper presented at the 116th Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America


Marston, John M. “Agricultural adaptation to climate change in central Turkey, 1500 BCE – 500 CE” Paper presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Society of Ethnobiology

Marston, John M. “Agricultural adaptation to climate variation in Iron Age Central Anatolia” Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research

Marston, John M. “Agricultural adaptation to highland central Anatolia: new data from the Iron Age city of Kerkenes” Poster presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

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  • Kerkenes is best known for its monumental stone city wall that runs 7 km

  • The wall inscribes 271 hectares - the largest pre-Hellenistic city in Anatolia

  • Architecture is well preserved in some areas despite site-wide destruction by fire

  • Animal bones are heavily burned and fragmented

  • The flotation system in use in 2010-2011

  • The soil is essentially gravel, so heavy fraction sorting is laborious

  • The cool, wet mountain climate at Kerkenes means considerable precipitation